Wed, May 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Achieving a consensus on reform takes vision

By Allen Houng 洪裕宏

China is becoming increasingly powerful and is constantly trying to annex Taiwan. When a nation faces a strong and powerful threat at its border, it is an eternal truth that it must first deal with its own internal issues before it can tackle an external enemy, but in the past year, since President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration came to power, a series of reforms have been promoted which have set social classes and ethnic groups against each other, with the prospect of the winner taking all.

Reforms bring progress, so naturally they are welcomed.

However, historical progress has its own logic of development, which can be understood through dialectical historical thought, often attributed to German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and also known as “thesis, antithesis, synthesis.”

The theory states that without a dialectic — or dialogue — achieving progress becomes fruitless: like climbing a tree to catch fish.

CONFLICT

The principle of the dialectic is very simple: When a conflict occurs between a proposition (thesis) and a negation of that thesis (antithesis), the two sides should not try to eliminate each other, because if they do, the dialectic will cease to exist.

Instead both parties should reconcile views or ideas and form a new position (synthesis).

The new position will attract new opponents, and the thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectic continues, until finally reaching the perfect end of history.

Unfortunately, many recent political and social issues have repeatedly torn apart Taiwanese society, such as the government’s proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, the “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” labor reform, pension reform and judicial reform, to name just a few.

BUBBLES

The Tsai administration has failed to deal with them properly, which has lead to hostility between dissenting groups.

Tension is mounting which has resulted in a lack of trust which could lead to societal collapse.

In particular, due to Internet “filter bubbles,” in recent years people have inevitably connected with those who share similar viewpoints and listen to the same opinions, and when they hear a different voice, they hate it as the poisonous venom of the “enemy.”

Living in this Internet culture, filter bubbles have taken our ability to have rational dialogue with those with whom we disagree. We should try to understand each other’s arguments with empathy, for only after we place ourselves in the shoes of others — and still refute their argument — can we be sure that we are not blinded by prejudice, ignorance or ideology.

COHESIVENESS

It is not too late to fix the situation. With the power of a majority, the main mistake the Democratic Progressive Party government has made is to assume that it is on the side of absolute justice, criticizing its opponents, wanting to force its way in everything and consequently making everyone feel battered and bruised.

Taking on board the objections to form a synthesis that transcends conflicting arguments and opinions has the potential to transform the government’s reform process into a driving force for change which would foster internal cohesiveness and ensure the public’s identification with society goes from strength to strength.

It is also the best guarantee for the security of Taiwan.

Allen Houng is a professor at National Yang Ming University’s Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.

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